Malaysian singer Namewee held for 'insulting Islam'

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Malaysian singer Wee Meng Chee, also known as Namewee, poses on the red carpet at the 27th Golden Melody Awards in Taipei, TaiwanImage source, Reuters
Image caption,
Police had said earlier this month they were investigating the singer after the release of the video

Police have arrested a popular but controversial Malaysian singer, after complaints that his most recent music video "insulted Islam".

Namewee, whose real name is Wee Meng Chee, was detained on Sunday. He is known for his profanity-laced music

The offending video, for his song Oh My God, was first released in July and features him rapping in front of places of worship around Malaysia.

Namewee insists that Oh My God was intended to promote religious harmony.

But on Monday Malaysian police remanded the 33-year-old singer in custody for four days to investigate him for "defiling a place of worship with intention to insult religion". The charge carries a jail term of up to two years.

About two thirds of Malaysians are Muslim, though the country also has significant Buddhist, Christian and Hindu populations. But there have been a number of instances in recent years of blogs and certain representations of Islam stoking controversy in the country.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
There have been a number of controversies in Malaysia in recent years around the public representation of religious issues

What was in the video ?

The singer makes several religious references, using terms such as "Allah" and "Hallelujah". Namewee and three others also appear to sing and dance in front of Buddhist and Taoist temples, inside a church and outside a mosque.

The latest version of the video uploaded to YouTube on 20 August, however, does not appear to include a sequence in front of a mosque.

Representatives from 20 local NGOs lodged some 10 reports against the singer.

"We had lodged the report based on five characters that were used in the music video which had...uttered the word 'Allah'," said Azdy Moh Arshad, who spoke for the coalition of NGOs.

He added that Namewee's actions had caused anger among Muslims in Malaysia.

What has Namewee said?

Namewee was arrested on Sunday at Kuala Lumpur International Airport after returning from an overseas trip.

On Monday, he posted a statement on his Facebook page (in Chinese) where he says the intention of the Oh My God video was only to promote religious harmony.

He responded to people asking why he had returned to Malaysia when he could have evaded arrest by staying abroad by saying that he had done nothing wrong.

"If I've not done any wrong, why should I run and hide? [Malaysia] is my home, my land."

Singing in Mandarin Chinese, Namewee is also hugely popular in Taiwan and China. But this is not his first brush with controversy.

In one of his previous videos he questions Malaysia's national energy provider over a blackout and another video featured a parody of the national anthem, which almost landed him in jail.